30 July 2022

Events permit in the Netherlands

Category: Administrative law

An events permit is always required for a (major) event and festival. Unfortunately, the organiser of an event also often has to engage the services of a lawyer because the granting of the event permit sometimes does not run smoothly and the permit procedure is sometimes derailed. Sometimes more than one permit is required, such as an environmental permit for noise nuisance and an environmental permit for temporary constructions. Sometimes, a permit is scarce and additional requirements apply to the permit procedure. The lack of a general framework of rules for events is difficult for entrepreneurs. Municipalities have their own guidelines for fire safety, constructions, security, sanitation, first aid, etc. The General Local By-Law (APV) often contains rules for events, which may differ per municipality. Most of the regulations for organising an event can also be consulted on the website of each municipality.

Event calendar and Dutch events permit

Usually, a municipality has an events policy and an events calendar in which an event can be fitted. Because of the event policy with a calendar of events, the number of available permits is limited, especially on certain holidays and at certain locations (think of the Museumplein in Amsterdam), and therefore the permit is scarce. To be placed on an events calendar, an application must be submitted in good time. And those who are not placed on such a calendar will be disappointed and sometimes leave it at that.
In my book “The Battle for Scarce Permits“, I discuss examples of this.

Scarce permit event makes demands on the permit procedure

If the number of events in the municipality is limited, the municipality must follow a procedure for scarce permits. A scarce permit, such as a permit for an event, requires a transparent procedure that gives potential event organisers equal opportunities to compete for the event permit. This means that a municipality has to announce “in an outwardly visible manner” that a scarce permit is available and within which period applications for that permit can be submitted. The allocation procedure must also be announced and it must be clear what requirements will be imposed on the applications.

Three obligations of the municipality in the event of a scarce permit

Offering equal opportunities for a scarce event permit means that the Licensing Authority has at least three concrete obligations towards the applicants:

  1. offer scope to compete for an available event permit;
  2. make known in advance by providing an appropriate degree of publicity that one or more scarce licences are available, in which period applications can be submitted, how these will be distributed among the candidates and what criteria will be used; and
  3. the permit may not be unlimited, so no automatic renewal or right for the next year; the holder of a permit for an event may not be given a disproportionate advantage over other applicants for the organisation of an event.

Requirements for events permits

Noise standards play an important role at events. The noise standards have become stricter in recent years. A permit is also required from the municipality for the erection of tents, stages, scaffolding and grandstands. Strict requirements apply to food (caterers must meet the necessary quality requirements and have a permit). And sometimes permits are limited so that the special procedure for scarce permits must be followed. The municipality is often responsible for the duration of events and there may be differences from one municipality to another in, for example, the time at which an event must end.

Sound regulations for an events permit

An example about the noise standards at events. In Amsterdam, strict noise standards apply to festivals from now on. The noise level at the facades of local residents may not exceed 85 decibels, measured in dB(C). This is a unit of measurement for sound, in which the disturbing bass tones are charged extra — something that does not happen when measured in dB(A).

Previously, the standards were more diverse, with some events exceeding 100 dB(C). In most other places in the country, the standard is 95 dB(C), but there are generally fewer festivals there. The organiser of a festival in Amsterdam is now obliged to have equipment that allows the municipality to monitor the sound per stage in real time.

Objecting to (refusal of) a permit for an event

If a permit for an event is refused (or if unworkable regulations are imposed on the permit), an objection or appeal may be lodged. An interested party may do so if his/her interest is directly affected by the decision. The organiser can do that if the permit is refused, but local residents can also lodge an objection if a permit is granted for the event. In an administrative law procedure, an attempt can be made to have that decision annulled. The procedure usually starts with a notice of objection to the administrative body that made the decision; after that, an appeal can be lodged with the court and finally an appeal can be lodged with the Council of State. But sometimes the matter is urgent and a preliminary injunction must be requested from the administrative court.

Interim injunction for events permit

If the organiser encounters problems due to a refusal of the permit or delays in the procedure, a preliminary injunction can be requested from the administrative court. There must be an urgent interest. A preliminary injunction issued by the administrative court may, for example, consist of granting a temporary permit or ordering the administration to consult with the interested party, or determining that a permit that has been withdrawn will remain in force during the proceedings. The administrative law judge may also impose a term on the administrative body within which it must take action. An administrative law lawyer can request a date for handling the preliminary injunction at short notice.

Preliminary injunction court about permit for event 

The judge in preliminary relief proceedings can also review the lawfulness of the decision. The reason for a preliminary injunction may be that the judge doubts the lawfulness of the decision or that, in his preliminary opinion, the decision is unlawful. The judge in preliminary relief proceedings will also weigh the interests involved. Serious encroachment on the interests involved may also be a reason for a preliminary injunction if the decision does not contain sufficient grounds for this. The administrative law judge also tests (the preparation of) the decision against principles of proper administration. The ruling of the administrative judge on the disputed decision about the event is provisional; it is a temporary injunction for as long as the main proceedings are still ongoing (objection or appeal proceedings). This means that in the objection procedure or the appeal procedure in which a decision still has to be made, the preliminary injunction plays no role. The fact that a preliminary injunction has been imposed does not mean that the objection or appeal is necessarily well-founded. Ask for advice, free of obligation, from a Blenheim administrative law lawyer.

Do you have any questions on events permits? 

Looking for professional assistance with all your questions in the field of administrative law? Feel free to contact the Blenheim administrative law team here.